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The Living Dead take over the Museum of Fine Arts

The dead came to life Thursday night at the Museum of Fine Arts to perform Michael Jackson’s Thriller dance.

Dancers rehearsing the Thriller dance moments before their first performance. Photo by Hannah Simpson

For the second year in a row, community members came out to give St. Petersburg a scare by performing Thriller in front of the Museum of Fine Arts. All members of the community were able to learn the choreography for the dance at the museum. Practices have been happening since September, so it was no wonder everyone seemed confident in their moves before the big show. 

“Curl Up and Dye Salon.” Photo by Hannah Simpson

If you find you’re no longer the normal looking one in a bathroom full of fake blood, colored hair spray and glow in the dark contact lenses, you better hope Halloween is just around the corner.

This particular bathroom was given the name “Curl Up and Dye Salon.” Dancers could get their makeup done by makeup artists provided by the Museum of Fine Arts.

One dancer gets their zombie makeup done in the “Curl Up and Dye Salon.” Photo by Hannah Simpson

Those wearing little makeup and fresh blood deemed themselves the “newly dead.” Others were so realistic they scared themselves looking in the mirror.

Another dancer puts on the finishing touches to complete her zombie look. Photo by Hannah Simpson

Makeup artist Karen Maitezen started her career by face painting at a preschool. Parents began to ask Maitezen to do birthday parties and events. One thing lead to another and she soon found a job doing makeup for a haunted house.

“Right at that time there was a craze of ‘The Walking Dead,'” said Maitezen. “I had 15 people who wanted me to do them as zombies and I had an hour and a half to do it. I thought there had to be a better way.”

Makeup Artist Karen Maitezen applies makeup to Jerri Huempfner-Gatz before the performance. Photo by Hannah Simpson

As zombies were filing in and out of the salon, Jerri Huempfner-Gatz commented on why she chose to participate in the Thriller dance this year. “I hit one of those big birthdays and I decided I just wanted to do something different,” she said.

Jerri Huempfner-Gatz getting her makeup done. Photo by Hannah Simpson

The dancers are all different ages. As long as you can follow the steps and look somewhat dead, you’re in. Many of the performers grew up listening to Michael Jackson’s Thriller when the song was first released. From practicing the dance in their bedrooms as kids to performing it live in front of St. Petersburg, these zombies knew the steps by heart. 

One thing many of these dancers had in common was that the performance was out of their comfort zones. However, there was a feeling of confidence among them knowing they would have fun in the process.

USFSP alumni Kevin Kurpe getting zombified. Photo by Hannah Simpson

“You can’t take life so seriously, it’s about having fun,” said University of South Florida St. Petersburg alumni, Kevin Kurpe.

People crowded outside the MFA to watch the performance. Photo by Hannah Simpson

To find out more about this event or others hosted by the Museum of Fine Arts, visit their website at

Performers gather for a group photo in front of the MFA. Photo by Hannah Simpson

Revised Oct. 31: A previous version of this article included fundraising information for a charity. The MFA’s event was not a fundraiser so that part of the aricle has been removed.

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